Engagement on the challenges of upgrading the James Kleynhans Waste Water Treatment Works; with Deputy Minister

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

01 November 2022
Chairperson: Mr F Xasa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Portfolio Committee was told that the Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Department was very disappointed with the progress of the James Kleynhans Bulk Water Supply project, as it was supposed to have taken three years to complete, but was now expected to be finished only in the middle of next year.

The Committee was briefed by the Department and the Amatola Water Board on challenges with the supply of water and sanitation in the Makana area, and also received input on the situation from the Mayors of Makana and the Sarah Baartman District Municipality. They pointed out that they were the ones having to shoulder the blame from the community for the delays.

The Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) also updated the Committee on the progress of repairing the main roads in the central business district of Makana. Members commended the MISA's achievements, but expressed concern over the state of the roads in the municipality's townships.

Meeting report

James Kleynhans Bulk Water Supply

Mr David Mahlobo, Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, said the Department was very disappointed with the progress of the James Kleynhans Bulk Water Supply project, as it was supposed to have taken three years to complete, but had gone beyond the period. However, he was hopeful that the project would soon come to an end as the water board, Amatola Water, was now led by Ms Pam Yako, Head of Administration: Makana Municipality, and he saw stability in the board.

Ms Yako said that this project was of concern to the board, as they had been appointed since March of this year, and it was their duty to stabilise Amatola Water and get to its core business. They had visited the Makana Municipality two weeks ago to oversee the site, make plans to continue with the project and accelerate all that needed to be done to finish the project, as their aim was to supply ten megalitres of water per day. She acknowledged the past errors of the board in making unfavourable decisions and contractors starting to underperform, but she was confident that the board had come up with measures to prevent this from happening in the future.

Amatola Water presentation

Ms Portia Makhanya, Eastern Cape Provincial Head: DWS, gave an overview of the current water supply at Makana. The local municipality had two independent raw water sources for its bulk waste storage and water treatment, namely Waainek and James Kleynhans. At the Waainek system, the water was treated at the Waainek Water Treatment Works (WTW) and the capacity of this plant was 8Ml/day. James Kleynhans was a 10Ml/day plant, but due to the shortage of treated water on the Western side, the Makana municipality had had to push the treatment capacity of the plant up to between 10 and 13Ml/day in order to transfer water to the Eastern side of Makana.

The James Kleynhans WTW was being upgraded to provide 20Ml/day treated water. This project was being funded by the DWS through the Regional Bulk Infrastructure (RBIG) programme at a total cost of R237.5 million, and the Amatola Water board was the implementing agent.

James Kleynhans bulk water supply background

The James Kleynhans Bulk Water Supply (JKBWS) project was approved by the DWS on 4 March 2015. It was planned to be completed in 2018 at a cost and funding of R101.85 million. Amatola Water was appointed as the implementing agent for the JKBWS in a tri-partite agreement on 29 July 2015. Due to the drought between 2011 and 2017, it had to be upgraded from 10Ml/day to 20Ml/day.

The scoping of the project had been phased into three (3) phases, and the scope includes:

Phase1: The augmentation of the James Kleynhans WTW by the construction of sludge ponds, a 2.0Ml clearwater reservoir, high-lift pumps, a supernatant pump, and associated pipe works. This phase was 100% complete, and had accumulated an expenditure of R65 million.

Phase 2: The augmentation of the James Kleynhans WTW by the construction of an additional 10Ml/day WTW, with a new raw water inlet works, bunding area, flocculation channel, two 5Ml sedimentation tanks, a 1.0Ml clear water reservoir, a new filter building and filtration system, backwash pumps, refurbishment of the existing 350mm diameter rising main, refurbishment of the old existing 10Ml/day water treatment, and a high voltage (HV) line and transformer area with associated pipe works. This phase was 82% complete, and had been terminated with an accumulated expenditure of R162.94 million.

Phase 3: The refurbishment of the old non-practical works with chambers in the 9km rising main construction of a drainage pipework from the clear water pump station, perimeter fencing and site paving with landscaping, and miscellaneous works. This phase had not started and the board was in the final stages of appointing a company that would be awarded the tender to begin with this phase. This would be done by November.  

Project challenges and shortfalls

A budget shortfall of about R175m was needed to complete the project due to delays, terminations, cost overruns and additional works. The delays were related to completion of the project, the provision of the surety due to private sector constraints and shutdown, commencing with the Department of Labour work permit requirements, and the supply chain management (SCM) internal processes.

Phase 3 would be completed by December 2023, but would not affect additional water. Amatola would offer operational assistance to Makana to deal with operational challenges on the western side whilst James Kleynhans was implemented.

Mr Risimati Mathye, DDG: Water Resource Management, DWS, said that one of the delays the Department faced was that the contractors would ask to be given second chances to prove themselves in moments where they were found to be performing below the required standard. He emphasised that this project was prioritised at the DDG level, and that they were ensuring that phase 3 of the project was unlocked by November. There were changes that they were working on so that when they intervened in issues related to municipalities, they should bring professionals who would ring-fence risks and implement a procurement strategy that would limit delays.

MISA on CBD roads in Makana

Mr Allan Zimbwa, DDG: Technical Support Services, Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA), spoke about the rehabilitation and maintenance of Somerset, High, Hill and New Streets in the Makana central business district (CBD).

The project was set to start on 17 March 2020 and end on 30 March 2022, with a budget of R17 830 489. There had been a record of 100% progress on the project, accumulated expenditure of R16 151 408, and a balance of R1 679 080 for retention.

A programme has been created to fix the Hill Street defects, and the following tasks need to be done:

  • Site visit by the MISA CEO & the Eastern Cape management team on 4 October.
  • Submission of the Makana defects inspection report by Makana LM professional service provider on 10 October.
  • Approval of additional budget to repair Hill Street in Makana on 18 October. 
  • Completion of procurement processes to appoint the contractor on 10 November.
  • Appointment of contractor on 17 November.
  • Completion of the works on 15 December.

Comments by Mayors

Mr Deon de Vos, Executive Mayor of Sarah Baartman District Municipality, said that the community members of Makana did not welcome the Amatola Water delays as an excuse for not having water, as they had not voted for the board. The Sarah Baartman DM was capable and had proven to implement the projects delegated to the Amathole DM, and he requested that the projects be given back to them to do for themselves. He emphasised that there was a lot of pressure on the mayors and councillors because of the water projects, and that they should be finalised. He applauded MISA for the road projects and asked for more funds and support to fix roads in the township areas, as they were of concern now.

Ms Yandiswa Vara, Executive Mayor, Makana LM, said that the issue of water provision in communities had gone back to square one, as some days there would be water and on others, there would be none. She acknowledged Amatola Water’s presentation and hoped there would be improvements by December. She said it was sad that community members were unaware or did not understand the importance of the board in supplying water to them, leading them to blame the mayors and councillors for the inconsistent supply of water. She applauded MISA for committing to their projects in the Makana area.


Mr G Mpumza (ANC) said the presentations were different from what was reported from the oversight. The apologies that the board rendered in the meeting for the delays would have been better if they had been directed to the Makana community members, as they have been the ones failed by them, and he urged the board to go and apologise to the community members. He did not see the sewage treatment works addressed in the presentation, as the previous oversight report indicated it was leaking down into the river, and it was said that its useful value had long expired. Phase Three was said to have merely indicative timelines, and he asked how practical it was that the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works would be completed by June. The Department must have a sense of urgency, as people would go for days without water supply. He ended by saying he needed clarity on the revised R237.6 million needed for the 8Ml/day water supply.

Mr K Ceza (EFF) said that the board, the Department and the contractor had stalled the James Kleynhans project, as it had been in progress since 2016. He asked who should be held accountable for this, and if the community was aware of it. Details on money spent were not clearly broken down, and the halted construction work due to the liquidation of companies that were unable to pay their sub-contractors left doubts that the project would be completed.

He referred to the R175 million shortfall from the board and the Special Investigating Unit's (SIU's) involvement, and asked for its report. The white paper on basic households and sanitation estimated that 18 million South Africans and three million households did not have access to sanitation and may be using the bucket system. He asked to what extent Makana had tried to reach their bucket system targets, noting that they should have reached them in 2006.

He asked MISA where the people they had reported to have created job opportunities for, were. He also wanted a breakdown of how the R17 830 489 had been spent, and the status of the post-evaluation process of the project was.

Some comments and questions came through the Zoom chat from unidentified attendees of the meeting, and they were as follows:

  1. Indeed, the Department has failed to play an oversight role. The DWS must shoulder the blame.
  2. Could we get a detailed breakdown of the operational assistance being offered to Makana to deal with the breakdown of the rising pipeline between Howieson’s Poort and the Waaniek Water Treatment Works?
  3. Could we get a copy of Annexure B referred to in the Amatola presentation?
  4. In all the presentations, I have not heard about ways to stop corruption since at the centre of this crisis is corruption, which had led to monies meant for maintaining infrastructure and delivering services being lost.
  5. The report on roads restructuring states that it cost R17 million to resurface about 4km. What was the budget estimate to resurface at least 50% of the CBD roads? Was there a pipeline project under discussion or in the pipeline to deal with at least 50% of the roads?
  6. Good question, what happened to township roads? Why was municipality not called to account for failing to fix potholes, a lot cheaper than resurfacing.

Response by Amatola Water

Ms Makhanya said that they were exchanging information with the Sarah Baartman team to communicate about them being an implementing agent, as they needed to satisfy the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) to be implementing agents. Phase 3 deliverables were highlighted on the slides, and they were pushing the doubling of water supply from 10Ml to 20Ml. There was a risk of flooding on the site -- should there be any floods, the water should be pumped out, but they were working on a drainage system to avoid the pumping out. Their primary goal was to get Phase 2 done so they could start with Phase 3 of the project. Waainek had different sources of water that did not really get much rain, and they were faced with the impact of drought, but the James Kleynhans got its water from the Orange River and it was a trusted and reliable source of water. She said that the leadership of Makana had to reach an agreed time with the Department to go and address the community members together to issue an apology for the delays caused.

The construction company was no longer on site. They had a good track record, so they managed to complete Phase 1 well. Covid 19 and other challenges they had faced had led to its liquidation, but that did not erase its capabilities. Additional information has been provided to breakdown each amount spent. They had led the eradication of bucket toilets in formal areas, and some informal areas needed to be formalised by providing structures and the associated infrastructure.

An executive member of Amatola Water said that as contractors were few, they took advantage of the opportunities presented to them by taking on multiple projects provincially and nationally, but Amatola Water had learnt that with a newly appointed contractor, they should appoint one that was highly skilled to complete the tasks given to them. They had also learnt that they should assess the candidate contractors on whether they were spread across the nation and if they had the financial muscle to support themselves during the projects before they awarded them a tender.

Mr Mathye said the Department was of the view that by November, they would have comprehensive indicative dates that would integrate the procurement and internal processes. They also committed to reporting back on the sewage treatment works, as it was a priority.

Ms Yako said that they had met the political and administrative leadership of the municipality, and had revised an acceleration plan as requested and agreed to assist the municipality with water tanks. The finalisation of Phase 2 needed support to be offered to the municipality for the Howiesons Poort site, and they would send their officials to engage the municipality about how they could assist. They were committed to having a conversation with the technical team of the municipality to discuss the assessment of the site so that they could know the measures needed to be taken to assist. The first engagement held with the political leadership had focused on time frames that were slightly longer than they planned, so they had gone back to revise them to accelerate the project. They would like to communicate with the community members, led by the political leadership, to give feedback about the projects and their progress.

Deputy Minister Mahlobo acknowledged the poor performance of the Department, but said they were committing to meeting up with the municipality and its leaders to finalise the project and communicate with the members of the community. He emphasised the need to have a plan before addressing the community, and that they had to provide them with water as this project was ongoing. The district had ambitions to be an implementing agent, and the DWS was not against that, but there were criteria that had to be met. The Department would deploy a technical team to look into that.

Response by Mayor

Executive Mayor Vara (Makana) said that the reported decommissioning of the Belmond wastewater treatment plants was not true, and if it was, it had not been brought to her attention. The plant needed urgent upgrading, as it was causing an overflow into the river next to the plant. The upgrading of informal settlements programmes was under assessment and was set to be finalised by the next financial year. Each gathering with the community included a discussion about water, but all they said was not solidified into a plan of action as to what would happen to finalise the project, so the visit by the Department would be useful for both the community and the municipality.

MISA's response

Mr Zimbwa addressed the comment about the breakdown of the R17 million budget by saying that it existed and was in line with the bill of quantities that he was open to sharing with the Committee. He said the employees had indeed been employed, but they were not part of their current employees as they had been let go when the project was completed.

Closing remarks

Mr Ceza addressed the response about the bucket system, saying that the communities were not well placed where they had been settled, as some were no longer areas with electric connections. He also asked what the difference was between informal settlements in rural areas and urban areas, because neither was supplied with efficient infrastructure, and some areas had been without water for years. The most affected were women and the elderly, especially with infections that they may pick up from poor bucket systems. What was the Department planning to do to correct these poor service delivery problems and low performances?

The Chairperson commented that the Committee had achieved all they wanted to achieve by bringing the attention of the Department to the Makana municipality, and he hoped that they would do as they had promised in this meeting. The Committee would continue to do oversights on the projects and ensure that there would be value for money injected into them.

The meeting was adjourned.


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